Better WiFi Coverage in building

Discussions about Internet service providers (ISPs), the Meetinghouse Firewall, wired and wireless networking, usage, management, and support of Meetinghouse Internet
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Chrisrpeterson
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Better WiFi Coverage in building

Postby Chrisrpeterson » Mon Jan 16, 2012 2:06 pm

What is the best way to get better coverage in the building. I am in a Bishopric in a Heritage (I believe) floor plan. The coverage is strong in the back of the building where the primary & relief society rooms. But in the front of the building where the chapel and bishops offices are it non existent. I emailed our stake tech specialist and he indicated that the local FM group would have to get more equipment to cover the entire building.

My question is- is it common for wifi to be that lopsided? Has anyone had an experience similar to this? Is there a way to speed up the process of getting better coverage.

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Postby russellhltn » Mon Jan 16, 2012 2:14 pm

At this point, I'm not sure as there is anything approaching a standard in the way WAPs are laid out in a church building. Installation is being handled by the STS and local FM Group.

The STS is probably right in that another WAP will need to be purchased and quite possibly a new wire run to connect it. There may have been delays in getting the wiring in place to install all the WAPs intended. Thus, the wireless only covers the area where the firewall has been placed but not the whole building.
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aebrown
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Postby aebrown » Mon Jan 16, 2012 2:17 pm

Chrisrpeterson wrote:What is the best way to get better coverage in the building. I am in a Bishopric in a Heritage (I believe) floor plan. The coverage is strong in the back of the building where the primary & relief society rooms. But in the front of the building where the chapel and bishops offices are it non existent. I emailed our stake tech specialist and he indicated that the local FM group would have to get more equipment to cover the entire building.


In my experience, if the coverage is inconsistent, it's usually the other way around -- the focus is on getting coverage to the bishops' offices, and other parts of the building may suffer. But the stake tech specialist is right -- WiFi equipment is in the realm of the FM group (they order it and pay for it).

Chrisrpeterson wrote:My question is- is it common for wifi to be that lopsided? Has anyone had an experience similar to this? Is there a way to speed up the process of getting better coverage.


Since the FM group is responsible for networking equipment, you need to work through them. The stake PFR (the high councilor responsible for interfacing with the FM Group) can submit a request to the FM group. Generally such a request will be initiated by the stake technology specialist and approved by the stake president. I'd make sure such a request is approved and submitted before I would worry about speeding up the process. But once the request is submitted, if the need is urgent, generally some communication from the stake president to the FM group will help them set their priorities. The FM Group doesn't have unlimited budget, and they usually prefer some advance warning so they can plan their budget. But where they can, they will try to fulfill mid-year requests from stakes.
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Postby russellhltn » Mon Jan 16, 2012 2:43 pm

aebrown wrote:In my experience, if the coverage is inconsistent, it's usually the other way around -- the focus is on getting coverage to the bishops' offices, and other parts of the building may suffer.


if this is a Stake Center, the emphasis may be on the stake offices. I'm in a similar situation. Until the FM Group gets around to running the conduit and wiring, the stake offices will be the only part that will have any coverage.
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Postby Mikerowaved » Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:22 pm

Also, please understand that FM groups everywhere are currently involved in systematically updating most building's wired/wireless infrastructure with a new firewall and possibly new wireless access points. Exactly where your building stands in this process is unknown to us. As was mentioned by others, your STS, PFR, and/or FM group can give you an idea if your building has been already updated, or is possibly scheduled to be updated.

(Sorry about all the acronyms/abbreviations. For those reading along, definitions to terms we commonly use can be found HERE or HERE.)
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Postby jdlessley » Mon Jan 16, 2012 5:54 pm

Chrisrpeterson wrote:What is the best way to get better coverage in the building. I am in a Bishopric in a Heritage (I believe) floor plan. The coverage is strong in the back of the building where the primary & relief society rooms. But in the front of the building where the chapel and bishops offices are it non existent.
We just moved into a new Heritage 98 building in November. It sounds like that is what you are in. If your building is set up the same as ours then the signal coverage is from the RS/Primary end to the foyers on each side of the building, but no further. We have network terminations in all four clerk offices as well as the chapel where there is no signal. We also have network terminations in all the major rooms and many of the classrooms.

Chrisrpeterson wrote:I emailed our stake tech specialist and he indicated that the local FM group would have to get more equipment to cover the entire building.

My question is- is it common for wifi to be that lopsided? Has anyone had an experience similar to this?
This is common for the Heritage 98 floor plan. The Cisco 881W wireless is placed in the cross hall on the second floor maintenance loft. This second floor cross hall is exactly over the first floor cross hall. This placement covers nearly all classrooms, RS room, Primary room, and most of the cultural hall. What it doesn't cover are the clerk and bishop offices and the two classrooms near the bishops' offices. We don't need the wireless on the clerk/bishop office end since there are network terminations there for the administrative computers.
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Have you tried finding your answer on the LDS.org Help Center page or the LDSTech wiki?

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Postby aebrown » Tue Jan 17, 2012 1:33 am

Mikerowaved wrote:Also, please understand that FM groups everywhere are currently involved in systematically updating most building's wired/wireless infrastructure with a new firewall and possibly new wireless access points.


My FM Group director says that our FM Group is not involved in any such process. We have a couple of old PIX 501 firewalls with Aironet 1200 WAPs, and according to him, the policy is still that they will only be replaced if they fail. So the systematic replacement may not be as widespread as you think.
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Postby johnshaw » Tue Jan 17, 2012 7:27 am

Ahh... the direction varys by FM group bites hard again....

In the building I just completed installing WAP's I have the Cisco 881W firewall as described above by jdlessley.... The firewall's wireless covers RS/Primary really well..... I ran another 1041N down one side of the building hoping to cover both hallways (there are 3 wards and 2 are on one side and 1 on the other side.... I covered the 2 wards really well... but the signal just didn't reach over to the other building.... I took over my inssider program to scout out the signal... I could could walk the entire building with good signal except when I came to the clerk/Bishop office on the other side.... It turns out that between my WAP and the office angle there is a PHYSICAL Building firewall blocking the signal.... I ended up wiring an additional WAP down the other hallway......

This in my mind was a WASTE of MONEY, however, because if I had mounted the WAP on the hallway ceiling the signal would NOT have been blocked --> However, FM said NO to mounting on the ceiling..... EVEN AFTER... Our New Stake Center completed in November has 4 WAP's mounted on hallway ceilings.......

I bristle at the inconsistencies that are placed before me on a regular basis, but I work through them slowly but surely... it sure wastes a bunch of hours and time (and money in this case) of our church volunteers... someday I hope we start to better account for what we're asking individuals to do.

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Postby sammythesm » Tue Jan 17, 2012 9:28 am

JohnShaw wrote:In the building I just completed installing WAP's I have the Cisco 881W firewall as described above by jdlessley.... The firewall's wireless covers RS/Primary really well..... I ran another 1041N down one side of the building hoping to cover both hallways (there are 3 wards and 2 are on one side and 1 on the other side.... I covered the 2 wards really well... but the signal just didn't reach over to the other building.... I took over my inssider program to scout out the signal... I could could walk the entire building with good signal except when I came to the clerk/Bishop office on the other side.... It turns out that between my WAP and the office angle there is a PHYSICAL Building firewall blocking the signal.... I ended up wiring an additional WAP down the other hallway.


This is excellent info I think should be added to the wiki, especially if this is a common experience with installing wireless in Heritage buildings. Since this is a standard floor plan, we should have 'standard' places where the standard AP works best. :) I'm about to wire up a Heritage building myself, so this is good info for me to be able to procure enough APs.

JohnShaw wrote:I bristle at the inconsistencies that are placed before me on a regular basis, but I work through them slowly but surely... it sure wastes a bunch of hours and time (and money in this case) of our church volunteers... someday I hope we start to better account for what we're asking individuals to do.


Sad to see so many people struggle with their FMs. I have a great FM who readily acknowledges that technology isn't their strength. They can fix heating and cooling systems with a vengeance, though. And that's historically what they've done - when it came even common things like audio and satellite, they've used contractors rather than keeping that competency in-house.

I think the way it's supposed to work is that FM purchases and delivers the gear, and the STS installs and maintains it (interacting with GSC when necessary). The FM group usually provides all CAT5/6 wiring, but I've seen this go both ways in our stake. In projects where they would typically bring in a contractor, we've been able to save them money by doing the work ourselves with stake members who are professional network people.

My FM has been semi-responsive to my emails. Things get done faster when they come from a member of the Stake Presidency or the PFR - even though in my opinion the STS should have as much pull as the PFR. They have a huge number of buildings to manage though, so I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.

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Postby JeffTurgeon » Tue Jan 17, 2012 4:20 pm

I agree that the FM group tends to take the lead on this one.

In my stake I've been asked to head up the team that is installing Internet services in all of our buildings. Our plan is hardwired drops in areas such as: Bishop & Clerk offices, 3 drops in chapel (pulpit controls, front of rostrum, rear of chapel), cultural hall at stage, RS room, Library, Stake Offices, Satellite cabinet, Family History, Phone Room.

In addition to the hardwired drops we install APs throughout the building to assure 70%+ coverage in all areas for member handheld units to work as well as WIFI video streaming of church content through devices such as Roku.

So far the most difficult building we've installed in took 6 APs because it had all solid walls and was added onto 3 times. Those solid interior walls really weakened our WIFI signals.

To test coverage I use a tripod that we place in the hall with a telescoping pole with an AP mounted on it. We raised the AP to the ceiling (typical mounting location) and walk around with a WIFI signal monitor to determine where to place it to give us the best signal range. Sometimes just moving the AP a matter of inches made a big difference due to the angle of wall penetration and inside the wall obstructions.

There is a free app for the Android phone market called Wifi Analyzer that I really like. It shows the signal strengths graphically for all channels instantly, tracks dBm per channel over time, and even displays mac ids. I love this free app and recommend it to anyone for a quick analysis of your wireless networks. You may want to walk around with it to see just what kind of signal strength you have around your building.

I used the Wifi Analyzer to check an install nearing completion and found that the 881w assigned all my APs, but one, to channel 1. Kinda like having your radio on and having 4 stations all broadcasting on the same frequency.

I called the global service desk and waded through a couple of techs to find someone that could get into the router to reassign the APs to different channels and then save the profile. Now the APs are not competing with each other and my wireless devices no longer drop and reconnect over and over again from confusion on who they should be talking with when you are in-between the APs. The signal strength has also improved since the APs are no longer acting like "good neighbors" by dropping their transmission strength to prevent interference with another AP.

Luckily my FM group is fully on-board and wants to get these building all completed. Since my small team of network geeks is willing to volunteer our time and talents, the FM group is more than willing to get us the equipment and means to do complete and through installs.


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